How To: In Honor of the iPhone4 Arrivals – Extracting Your Blackberry Contacts, Calendar, & Todos in BULK

After ordering her iPhone4 through AT&T, they graciously sent my wife a “so you’re switching from a blackberry to an iPhone” email in anticipation of the imminent pain of a cross-platform device migration.  In that well intentioned email they said that to transfer all the contacts from the blackberry to the iPhone, she would have to save all of her contacts to her SIM card, transfer the blackberry SIM to the iPhone, import them to the address book from that SIM, then put the new iPhone SIM card back in.  

That sounds simple and wonderful, in theory.  Unfortunately in practice RIM only provides bulk import options for a SIM to blackberry address book transfer.  Get this, if you want to get your contacts out of your Blackberry to your SIM, you have to save them one at a time. You read that right.  All together now, AT&T and RIM both want you to copy your contacts to a SIM card one at a time.  Have you ever copied a Blackberry contact to a SIM card?  It’s a fairly heinous procedure which in my wife’s case we would have had to repeat 1454 times.  Also due to SIM car limitations, and perhaps this has changed but SIM card contacts can only hold one number.  So those 1454 contacts could have easily become Thousands of entries and that doesn’t even take into account addresses, notes, et al.  What kind of user experience is that?  I can safely safe that it’s beyond ludicrous.

So, having gone through this exercise a couple of years ago, I set about doing it my way which involves a few steps but far less data entry and processing than the manual one at a time method endorsed by AT&T and RIM.  If you have fewer than a manageable number of contacts, stop now and just type as it will be faster.  My threshold is about 10 🙂

You’ll need Outlook & Blackberry Desktop Manager running on Windows; I used Parallels on my Macbook Pro

  1. You’ll probably want to create a new Outlook profile to start clean
  2. Go to Start Menu > Control Panel > Mail
  3. Create a new profile and Uncheck the default checkbox
  4. Start Blackberry Desktop Manager
  5. Plug BB into USB port and if on OSX, make sure it connects to and is mounted by Virtual Machine
  6. You could be asked for the PIN – on my wife’s it was her keyboard lock
  7. Select Backup
  8. Perform a full backup, creating a folder and saving it somewhere memorable
  9. Then go to the Advanced option and selectively transfer a few key files by selecting them on the right column and then hitting the <- arrow
    • Address Book
    • Calendar
    • Phone Logs
    • SMS Texts
    • Tasks
  10. Go to Synchronize in BB Desktop Manager and hit Synchronize (I opted out of reconciling email)
  11. If all goes well then you should get a confirmation dialog box that looks like Figure 1. Hit accept. Now you know why manual was not an option 😉
  12. Hit Accept
  13. It will go through and sync all your contacts, calendar and memo pad objects
  14. Now go to Outlook and all your contacts, calendar and tasks should now be listed
  15. Go to File > Import and Export…
  16. Select Export to a File
  17. Select a file format; I opted for Comma Separated Values file Windows format
  18. Next up is what to export.  You can only do one at a time so I started with Calendar
  19. Name your file and save to the folder that you hopefully created in step 8
  20. Repeat steps 15-19 but for Contacts and then Notes
  21. In your folder that you created in step 8 you will hopefully find 4 files: the backup and the 3 export files
  22. Now unless Outlook is your final destination, you will need to import the files into your apps of choice. I went to her laptop and launched Address Book and imported the csv file.
  23. Make sure you go through when mapping fields because you don’t want to loose data
  24. Don’t kid yourself though, you will have data scrubbing to do and that can be done at the CSV stage (not fun) or at the Address Book stage (slightly less painful).  Either way it’s going to suck but at least at the Address Book stage you can sync to you iPhone and edit at will over time.

So long Blackberry and thanks for all the fish.


Here are the basic instructions for the Address Book import:

Figure 1: Address Book [Similar one for Calendar]